The value added to students by a college or university in learning (as opposed to sports or socialization or networking) arises from good instruction and the interaction of each student with other students about academic topics. This value added has long been recognized to be consistent with the provision of most if not all content via commercially produced and marketed textbooks. There should be no difference with respect to professionally prepared online courses.
The role of good professional builders of courses is to enable instructors to teach better by giving them good content, good presentation, good tools, and engaging students thoroughly.
There are two general types of professionally prepared online courses: MOOCs and MOCs. MOOCs get the most publicity, and are the subject of continual hype about their potential impact on education generally. But MOCs are the more important.
MOCs are massive – that means that many students can take them simultaneously; MOCs are online; MOCs are courses, not simply lectures or elements of courses, but full courses. The difference between MOOCs and MOCs, the reason why MOOCs have an additional O, is that MOOCs are open to general enrollment while MOCs are limited to enrollment of the students of a single college or university. MOCs are the online equivalent of the ordinary classroom courses which schools offer and which have been and still are the essence of a school’s educational effort.
We have already described in previous posts the thirteen characteristics of a good online course. MOCs should have these characteristics, just as MOOCs should have them.
MOCs are built for specific schools. They are aimed at the academic skill level of representative students of those schools. MOCs are tailored to the teaching style of instructors at a specific school. The content of a MOC is designed to fit into the overall curriculum of a specific school. In all these ways MOCs are superior to MOOCs for schools. They may, however, have development costs for a school that MOOCs do not.
Some professional preparers of online courses are trying to build hybrids between MOOCs and MOCs. They are trying to build courses for a single school which can then be offered to other schools for their use. It remains to be seen how this will work. There are questions of fit at other institutions for a course developed to fit a particular school’s student body, instructors, academic mission and pedagogical style.
In today’s world of political controversy over academic matters, schools are understandably cautious about the content of courses which they offer. Since schools are in different parts of the country, have alumni who are active from one political orientation or another, sometimes have oversight by politicians of one party are another, and have faculty and student activists of one persuasion or another, different schools may want very different (or no) content in certain fields. This caution is not limited to fields that might be thought to be controversy-provoking, but extends to the types of assignments given in basic skills courses such as writing, for example. Because of these concerns, MOCs developed for one school may require considerable modification before being usable at other schools. Schools which desire to use MOCs developed elsewhere may have to accept some development costs to fit the MOCs to their own particular needs.